Three intrepid pensionsers who set off to climb Shanklin Chine, a notoriously steep natural gorge in the Isle of Wight, have not been sighted in the best part of two hours. According to experts, the chances that they will make it out in time for dinner are now almost negligible.
John Bagnall, 68, his wife Muriel, 66, and Margaret’s sister Doris Nicholson, 62, set out to walk the 280 foot path to the top at 5.15 p.m., according to Doris’s traumatised husband Gordon, who urged them to take the bus back from the beach with him. The group did not take local guides, oxygen or even a flask of tea to see them through the steep climb. Experts have described their actions as foolhardy in the extreme.
'People often don’t realise that Shanklin Chine has its own micro-climate,' said retired local Sherpa, Roy Hodges, 66. 'When it is sunny on the beach, it can still be a little bit chilly and damp in the Chine. Once I set out with a party at 3 o’clock in bright sunshine only to find we really needed woolly jumpers. Fortunately, they had the sense to turn back.'
Particularly when a bit of light rain has swollen the waterfall, the 1 in 15 path to the top of the chine can become a wee bit slippy. In the last year alone, five people have lost their footing and one man even hurt his ankle, waiting 45 minutes in a steady breeze for a first aider to come. Advice to take a walking stick and wear sensible shoes is all too often ignored.
As night gathered and a previously warm spring day turned a tad nippy, Gordon Nicholson continued his lonely vigil alongside a grumbling gatekeeper. A realistic man, he said that he accepted that his relatives had already missed the first sitting at the Keats Green Hotel and might struggle even to find a place open for a sandwich.
'Doris was always a great one for ignoring the danger signs and gallivanting around,' he told reporters. 'I thought she’d learned a lesson after that time we got slightly sunburnt on Alum Bay in July 2007, but no... Well, there’ll be no more adventure holidays for us from now on, I can tell you that for starters, my lad.'